The Australian Institute of Company Directors describes “governance” as encompassing the rules, relationships, policies, systems and processes, aligned to each organisation’s specific circumstances, whereby authority is exercised and maintained.
Be it in government or in a large corporation, strong governance is supposed to make certain that money is not wasted or stolen and reputations are not trashed by perceived (or real) dubious or corrupt practices. There are, however, situations where ‘one size fits all’ arrangements can actually waste money and harm reputations.
One example is tendering for a big procurement. These tenders can cost millions to develop, even before any approach to the market. They then cost more millions for tenderers to put together their tenders. Then, there’s the millions spent in sourcing selection. The whole process can take months or years to get to contract signature.
Another example is the rapid transformation program where the proposal gets tied up in a massive detailed business case that needs to run a circuitous endorsement path through the organisation. Again, this can take months or years to get final approval.
Has all this governance saved lots of money and covered all involved in glory in every case? What is certain is it has cost a brick and more than once strangled a fantastic proposal.
How do you avoid excessive governance? Before anything else, the organisation’s appetite for risk and its ability to withstand shocks to its Balance Sheet need to be clearly articulated. Within this context, there are at least two ways to rapidly get to the decision point.
The first is to recognize difference. Simple, little things need straight-forward decision processes and should be handled at the lowest possible competent level in the organisation. Complex, gigantic things need a higher level of rigour, highly astute handlers, and need to be dealt with at the top of the organisation.
The second way is to recognize the opportunity window. If the proposal is to launch by a specific date, then you need to be able to demonstrate that date is able to be delivered to specification, on schedule, on budget. It’s extremely dumb to push the proposal through a process that will mean the capability is delivered too late to be of any use. The process needs to provide approved differentiated approaches tailored to proposal characteristics.
In both examples, it is important to have sound intelligence on what the market can provide. It’s pointless going through a competitive tender process when the market has only one real vendor.
Notwithstanding, avoid being drawn into the vortex of the “URGENT”. This generally means that the proposer has not really demonstrated their ability to plan. Has the proposal been properly thought through? As someone very bluntly once said, “why should your bad planning become my crisis?” Good decisions are timely decisions, not rushed decisions. It is important to apply approved differentiated approaches, to respect the process, and, as part of that process, the needs of the decision-makers.